Calver (Chairman), Jan Palmer Sayer (Adjudicator), Nicholas Owen (Patron)
Perry (Vice Patron)
- 28th February 2015
year in anticipation, mounting excitement as the Southern Counties Drama Festival
took shape and a blissful week spent at the Barn Theatre, Oxted (my favourite)
watching no less than 15 plays from 11 groups, life doesn't get any better than
this. Particular excitement this year, in terms of the number of original plays
and a new group or two, coupled with the exuberant talent of the youth productions.
What a week in prospect.
Calver (Chairman of the SCDF) introduced us to our Adjudicator for the week Jan
Palmer Sayer, who was making her first professional appearance at the Barn, but
who it transpired, had also "trod the boards" at the Barn (and the programme exists
to prove it). It seemed we were in for an entertaining week featuring Sofas..............!!
so to the first of the 15 plays...:
Alternate Shadows present "Alas, Poor Geoffrey" by Alistair Faulkner
is a comedy, set predominantly in a well-proportioned room of a large house with
french doors leading to the garden. The set suggested that large room, with sufficient
furniture to make it visually credible; however, the furniture positioning may
have required a little more thought, as there were some sight line issues during
the course of the production. The play is a comedy which must be played with sincerity
and pace, sadly the pace flagged at times and the early promise of quickfire entertainment
slumped, with a lack of pace causing the humour to ebb and flow.
action centred around the catering arrangements for the recently departed Geoffrey's
funeral, to which is added a compote of dotty, sullen, vacuous, grasping and murderous
characters. There were some fine comedy opportunities which the audience thoroughly
enjoyed, but which may have been made even more of had the pace been sustained
throughout. The play contains many "revelations" as the family come to blows (both
physical and psychological), all of which were handled well. The costumes had
been well thought through and adequately portrayed some of the quirks of the characters
with some success.
Theatre and Arts Club present "Remember" by Marilyn Apps
play is described as a modern Tragic-Comedy. This three-hander portrays a family
trying to deal with the tragic loss of a son 17 years before, which the Mother
especially seems unable to come to terms with as the impending anniversary nears.
Their daughter returns from work and reveals that she intends to leave home. This
is the catalyst for a succession of fast moving plot twists where we see the family
unravel and the part each played inadvertently in the unfortunate son's death.
The play is a complex and difficult piece (especially the ending), which requires
a strong and experienced cast. Without doubt, this team hit the mark and delivered
an excellent result.
Oxted Players present "Aunt Matilda Comes for Christmas Dinner" by Richard Hills
as a comedy, it is a comedy more in the performance of "the business" rather than
the content of the dialogue, which at times can seem quite contrived. The said
Matilda is the aunt of Gordon (and his wife Margaret) who over the preceding ten
years has contrived to avail herself of their hospitality for Christmas Dinner.
This year she is not coming - or is she? Matilda is a domineering "old baggage"
who wants the Christmas Dinner but only on her terms. Enter stage left the Andrews
Liver Salts, apply liberally to her cup of tea and hey presto she leaves and sanity
presentation of a visual comedy with the said Matilda getting most - if not all
- of the laughs.
Players present "A Dangerous Game" by Geoff Rose-Michael
first appearance at SCDF for this group, a cast of four presented this play which
had been written and directed by a member of the group. The play was presented
against a very striking red, white and black set and similarly colour-coordinated
costumes. This was a very thought-provoking play with a very simple plot, namely
the use of an ex-husband (without his consent) as a means to produce a baby for
a newly formed lesbian relationship (rather than the more usual IVF route) without
the ex-husband realising. An interesting and thought-provoking plot and very topical
cast were very competent and assured, working well together and developing all
the complexities of the relationships between them. Perhaps a slightly weak ending
for the spurned new wife as the ex-husband and wife were re-united in time for
the birth of the baby.
Players present "The Flounder Complex" by Anthony Dmato
group were blessed with an ideally matched cast of two, the older of the two (Lily)
being convincingly blind and neurotic, whilst the younger, Nan, had come to apply
for a live-in helper position with her.
play is the interview, during the course of which Lily's paranoia overwhelms them
both, with Lily murdering Nan (very convincingly). It has been said that everyone
in the world is neurotic to one extent or another, this disturbing psycho-drama
would seem to confirm this!
The Cuff present "What Shall We Do With The Body" by Rae Shirley
comedy centres around a crime writer of doubtful talent but who retains a giddy
sense of self importance. Her long suffering PA has heard all the plot lines before,
but knows her place. The arrival (at night) of a man in his pyjamas purporting
to be from Special Branch seemed to me to be too preposterous a notion to believe
in, yet the actresses both seemed fairly calm! In general the plot line seemed
implausible and both actresses started out at too high a pitch leaving themselves
(vocally) with nowhere to go.
Players present "Outrageous Fortune" by Rod Henderson
of Shakespeare's most powerful women arrive in purgatory, where their "Outrageous
Fortunes" are forensically dissected by each other (and the audience). This was
a winner of a concept, with all credit to the Author and two fine actresses. The
twists and turns of dialogue were followed avidly by the audience in almost complete
silence. Lady Macbeth, a spent force and Gertrude, imperious as the wife of the
King of Denmark could perhaps have shown glimpses of their alter egos, but for
all that, a scintillating and at times deeply moving piece.
Shadows present "War Room" by Chris Brake
in a nuclear bunker, "War Room" is described as a satirical comedy by the Author
who is also the Director and Chancellor of the Exchequer (no mean feat).
the first minute I was starting to cringe in my seat as I watched rule after theatrical
rule being broken or swept aside. By the end of the second minute I was gathered
up in what I can only describe as one of the funniest productions I have ever
seen. The cast of four were disciplined and had been choreographed exuberantly,
the pace was phenomenal with every known theatrical convention discarded, heresy
indeed but how brave.....!! The ending was reminiscent of Blackadder Goes Forth
as all four characters faced their end stoically yet with great poignancy.
Actress - Christina Betts (Prime Minister)
Best Actor - Richard Harding (Field
Martin Patrick Award for Best Director - Chris Brake
Youth Drama present "Bang Out Of Order" by Johnny Carrington
in a ubiquitous urban estate somewhere in the UK. A cast of eight presented a
play which focuses upon the issues surrounding anti-social behaviour. Two sisters
find their lives changing when "new kid on the block" Ollie arrives, together
with his secret! The play explores the many facets of modern life but is intrinsically
a play about relationships and manipulation. A good ensemble piece confidently
and at times menacingly delivered.
Theatre Group present "Living With Lady Macbeth" by Rob John
not a play about gangs, drugs, ASBO's or pre-marital sex, but an exploration of
a girls transition into young womanhood. Presented as a play within a play, it
follows "Lily" (Emma Starbuck) as she auditions for the role of Lady Macbeth against
a coterie of girls who consider themselves superior choices for the role. Lily
is a fighter and against all the odds and amidst the doubts of those who know
her, she triumphs and gains the respect and admiration from her peers for her
portrayal of the woman she aspires to be. Who would have thought it possible?
first rate junior production which won well deserved accolades from the Adjudicator.
Young Actress - Emma Starbuck (Lily)
Oxted Players present “Safe” by David Rowan
in the context of the current political and religious strife, this topical play
sets out to portray the difficulties faced by two desperate young asylum seekers.
concept behind this piece was well researched and clearly thought through. The
character types were easily recognisable and for the most part singularly unpleasant.
The young couple faced seemingly insurmountable hurdles at every turn, meeting
bigotry and outright hostility head on. This young cast managed to capture and
convey a palpable sense of despair, leaving the audience to consider their own
Youth Drama present “The Boy With a Cart” by Christopher Fry
1938 play is based upon the story of the founding of a church in Stenning in Sussex
cast of around 20 with considerable doubling of parts requires a huge amount of
discipline to accomplish smooth transitions between scenes. In addition, the piece
is written in a highly stylised format (part verse, part prose) of itself difficult
to master. That this young cast managed this complex delivery whilst maintaining
the action was a tribute to the perseverance of all concerned. The difficulty
for this group (and the audience) was a lack of projection, which meant many lines
were lost and some thought could perhaps have been given to accents, in order
to establish the length of the journey across Southern England. Given the incredible
complexity of the writing, this was nevertheless a good and well-disciplined ensemble
Theatre group present “A Midsummer Nights' Dream” by Julian Chenery, Matt Gimblett
and William Shakespeare
a cast of 24 young performers, to include six fine Mechanicals a Fairy King and
Queen, four young lovers, a host of fairies and a sprinkling of wood sprites and
elves and what have you got? A simply glorious version of “the Dream”, stunningly
beautiful and with a "Puck" and a "Bottom" to die for! Many bravura performances
too numerous to mention and such fun, with some wonderful Directorial touches
... Puck on a scooter....Bottom with tin foil armour....!!!! Thoroughly enjoyable!
Theatre Group present "DNA" by Dennis Kelly
very powerful drama indeed, inside the world of a gang controlled by a menacingly
silent leader (Jamie Patterson) and his cohort of lieutenants. A joke goes wrong,
a boy lies dead and the Leaders attempt to "cover up" as the deed spirals out
of control. A simple set but visually stunning, against a backdrop of trees in
silhouette in the woods - a place where plots were hatched. The twists were fast
and furious, relationships came and went. From an audience perspective, a chilling
insight into a world, (thankfully), rarely seen.
Young Actor - Jamie Patterson (Phil)
Best Stage Presentation
Valley Players present "Little Brother" by Tony Earnshaw
final play of the week from the undisputed winners of last year's festival round
held out much promise. This story of sibling rivalries fuelled by failed relationships,
alcohol dependency, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and overbearing personalities
contains a potent and explosive mix of emotions. This strong cast of three managed
to bring all these complex facets to life briskly and with compassion. In the
end we were left uncertain as to how effective or long-lasting the remedies forged
in this piece would prove to be.
summary, a wonderful week with some truly gifted Adult and Junior productions,
imaginative and diverse subject matter and TALENT..........!!
& Lee Butler